Use a Car AC Recharge Kit on an Older Vehicle

If your car’s AC blew ice-cold air last year but now barely cools, it could have lost refrigerant over the winter. Recharging the system should help, but only if there isn’t a major leak in the lines. If the system is leaking, you’ll need professional repair to fix it. But if the problem is low refrigerant, an ac car recharge kit can save you money by letting you do it yourself.

A recharging kit is an oil-filled can with a hose, a valve, and a gauge. You attach the hose to the service port on your air conditioner compressor and open the valve on the recharging can, which releases refrigerant into the vehicle’s system. You have to wait for a few minutes for the refrigerant vapor to fill the hose.

When it does, you can hook the hose to the low pressure line port on your compressor (or a low-pressure port on the front of the car’s chassis). You should also have a high-pressure port that can be hooked up to a manifold gauge. The recharging can should have a chart or instructions to help you determine the proper pressure to charge at according to ambient air temperature.

Many DIY car ac recharge kits are filled with R134a refrigerant, compressor oil, and a seal conditioner additive. But that type of refrigerant is incompatible with some hybrid and electric vehicles. They use a different kind of refrigerant, which is not compatible with the oils and leak stoppers in DIY recharge kits. Using the wrong refrigerant can damage the compressor, leading to thousands of dollars in repairs.

Is it Safe to Use a Car AC Recharge Kit on an Older Vehicle?

In addition to causing problems with the compressor, mixing refrigerant types can cause the pressure in your vehicle’s A/C system to be off. That’s because the new refrigerant doesn’t expand as well as the older one, which can result in an overcharge. The pressure in your A/C system should be between 35 and 45 psi on the low side.

If the pressure is too high, you risk blowing a hose or damaging the compressor, which will cost you thousands in repairs. Many recharging cans have simplified pressure gauges that measure only the low side, increasing the chances of overcharging. That’s why you should always purchase a car air conditioning recharge kit from a trusted name like AutoZone, with the full set of manifold gauges to ensure the correct pressure.

If your car has a serious leak, it’s best to take it to a pro for professional repair instead of trying to find and fix it yourself with a kit. A professional will be able to use the right tools and diagnostics to get to the bottom of the issue, while a DIY recharge kit can make it worse over time. If you suspect a major leak, it’s worth the extra money to have a mechanic find and repair it.

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